Jimquisition: Innovation - Gaming's Snake Oil

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I'm going to have to play Mirror's Edge again. I've never had a problem platforming in the first person, so I must be missing something that causes all of this critical bile. You don't even *have* feet to look down at in, say, Halo, but it doesn't stop people making all of those precision jumping levels.

Darth_Payn:
Wait, wait, wait: Final Fantasy XIII was a GAME???!!!

Hm? Where did you get that impression?

Beryl77:
This is one of the few videos where I disagree with pretty much everything you said. I personally always prefer change over things staying the same even if it means that it could get worse. I never liked the saying "if it's not broken, don't fix it."
Yes, this produces a lot of crap but I simply get bored really quick of things that stay similar or even the same for too long. To take one of your examples, this is why I've only ever played two Zelda games and was too bored to finish a third one that I had started.

Sure, it produces a lot of crap but good things will come out of it as well and I like that much more than sticking with what works. So yes, I don't think it's bad if they innovate too much just for the sake of it compared to too little.

Also, most of the examples you used for games that are good because they didn't change much, are kinda, not so good games in my opinion.

debigcheez:
It feels like Jim is bashing innovation itself in this one.

Maybe he's sick of all the art-sy fart-sy games but i do believe that innovation is a good thing when combined with brilliant gameplay mechanics, that's what innovation is for after all.

He's not bashing innovation; he's bashing innovation for innovation's sake. Innovation should be a means to an end and NOT the end itself.

The video might be flawed, but the core idea remains the same.

Innovation is like spice, a little goes a long way. Polish of all features is the "meat" of any game (or product in general).

Nintendo games might be formulaic but each iteration is a refinement of the formula with the a little bit more (innovation/originality) to keep things interesting. Then if the original portion of the previous installment worked it is added to the next version as the new norm.

If things are different than they have always been done there needs to be a reason for it. The rewind time mechanic in Braid is a great example of "innovating" a way around the whole "learn by dying" methodology of most platformers.

Saying its innovative isn't any more of an excuse for poor gameplay than "its licensed". Crap gameplay is crap gameplay, it doesn't matter if you never smelled that particular turd before, it still stinks like the rest.

I agree, Jim.

But your examples of good games that don't innovate are fracking terrible.

Ni No Kuni is a boring game with horrible friendly AI, battles that are either way to easy and simple or way to difficult and complex. Oh and the story may as well have been written by a 6 year old for all the depth it has.

Innovating for the sake of innovation gets you no where. You should only Innovate when it solves a problem or betters a game in some way. That being said I would rather see a game try to innovate and fail then to see a game that doesn't understand how to polish the older systems. So many games that stick to the old systems just make mediocre versions of them, nothing spectacular, nothing to be proud of.

Bocaj2000:

He's not bashing innovation; he's bashing innovation for innovation's sake. Innovation should be a means to an end and NOT the end itself.

The video might be flawed, but the core idea remains the same.

Yes, I realise that. However, I still don't agree with it.

I agree with you Jim, but not entirely. Innovation makes a game better by making it something new. There are a lot of very flawed games I enjoy just because they are so DIFFERENT from anything else around. Games like mirror's edge or fez or minecraft. I will say though, that while I think that innovation (usually) improves a game for me, it does not necessarily make it good. It is just a single positive point in the game's favor, and can be outweighed by enough negative points.

Minecraft has one of the best core mechanics of any game I've ever seen. However, it is also unfocused, buggy, has a lot of poorly implemented ancillary features, and takes FAR too long to update. Fez has a brilliantly creative core mechanic, amazing art, and a very relaxing, unusual tone. It also lacks direction, has a shitty map system, and its puzzles are VERY obtuse at times. Mirror's Edge has incredibly fun platforming, and some of the best visual design in game history, but its flaws are so numerous that it is not a very good game overall.

If a game is going to lack innovation, it has to do everything VERY well. It has to be polished. I feel that if you are doing something in your game that has been done in dozens of games before you, you MUST do it well or it is not really worth my time. Also, you should be able to learn from these past titles. See their mistakes, what works and doesn't work. Combine these elements to make them perfect. That is when using old ideas is ideal. Blizzard is known for doing this. Starcraft 2 doesn't really have ANY mechanics that haven't been seen in some other RTS before, but it does these things better than almost any other RTS (at least in my opinion.)

The other time that you don't need to innovate is when the mechanic or system is not central to the game. The example you used was JRPG fight systems. They do not need innovation because they are not normally the point of those games. They are simply a tool used to bring across the core of the game - the story. In that case , you do not want people to even notice those systems. They should just be functional. IF you try to innovate, you will just draw attention away from the core of your game.

What would help publishers learn how to innovate properly is if they were willing to create smaller, cheaper games. Fund a game on the scale of Fez or Braid or even Amnesia. That would allow publishers to test out new and unproven ideas without having to worry too much. I sympathize with them. You can't take too many risks when your game costs dozens of millions of dollars to make. You just can't. Those AAA titles should be the super-polished ones, the ones that take proven ideas and perfect them. Smaller titles have room to innovate.

Moviebob did an excellent video on this topic, while he has some of the same points about not reinventing the mechanics wheel with each new game, you can you know, innovate in graphics style, story, sound design, controls and all other areas, while still having a Dragon Quest or Gears of War clone.

http://blip.tv/gameoverthinker/episode-79-in-praise-of-clones-6469791

Great Scot! Jim has created a hybrid of himself, Sid Wilson and Carrot Top.

And it is pure horror.

Some innovations, no matter how brilliantly implemented, should never be made.

Darksiders failed because it was boring and repetitive, not because it wasn't innovative enough.

And if you'll notice, Mirror's Edge still failed DESPITE its innovation. Because it had a combat focus, and the combat was TERRIBLE.

Nobody hates these games because they're not innovative enough. We hate them because they don't do what they're trying to do well enough.

I say you should keep the rubber claws. I hate the whole fps on consoles where nearly every game is an fps. Anyway I don't esept anyone to read this because I didn't read anything.

So two videos ago during the PS4 presentation bash, we're talking about too much of the same thing...and now that's a good thing this week? We were complaining about developers not taking risks, and now we're damning games that dare to be different.

So we're just going in circles here? Why do I continue to watch this crap? Oh...that's because Yahtzee and Movie Bob don't show up until later in the week.

I agree but could you find better examples, most of your good games are mediocre popcorn games and Mirror's Edge not just a game better then most of those, is a terrible example of innovation for innovation. Mirror's Edge has a very specific goal of being the most realistic feeling free running games out and everything in the game feels like it's trying to achieve that goal, outside of the tacked in battles(the most traditional parts of the game) everything was planned for during development.

canadamus_prime:
I'm reminded of the saying "If it ain't broke don't fix it."

Incidentally you know what JRPG battle system I really liked? The one from the Star Ocean games.

Just curious, which ones? i enjoyed 1 and 2, utterly adored the battle system of Till the end of Time, but hated with a Passion the battle system (and just about everything else) of Last Hope.

I've had SO much fun with Lost Oddyssey!!!
And it did innovate: the stories/dreams where surprisingly deep and interesting.
Still remember the one about the "Signpost" drug and the one about the waterfall! :D

Now I wanna replay me some Zelda OoT!

Andy Shandy:

jehk:

Also, I think I'm the only person who loved Mirror's Edge.

Trust me, you're not. I love it too. I don't think there are many more experiences in gaming better than going full pelt in that game.

Anyway I agree, Jim. Innovation can be all well and good, but only if it is backed up by quality as well. And like you said, just because something doesn't innovate, doesn't inherently make it bad either. Call Of Duty for example. Doesn't exactly change much from game to game but I still really enjoy them because they are fantastic "popcorn games" to play.

I liked mirrors edge too, although admittedly on occasion playing it did make me a little dizzy.

He's got a good point, the battle system in FF XIII was annoying and some sort of semi-automatic nightmare.

Remember Too Human, if that game had just used sensible buttons it would have been great.

dbenoy:
Good games require novelty. It's the reason why new games exist. If novelty wasn't important, then we'd be able to just be able to keep playing the old games forever.

The point I think both I and Jim are trying to make, though, is that novelty alone isn't sufficient.

I think, the bottom line should be that we should trust people to know exactly how much novelty they need.

The problem comes when artsy developers, pundit reviewers, and hipster forum users start bashing a franchise or genre for not being innovative enough, whil it has a stable fandom that is quite content with the level of novelty that they get from new plots, or new levels, or slightly fine-tuned mechanics, or whatever. As if they would have a responsiblity to care about innovation for it's own sake, and succombing to their lowly desire of more of the same would betray the failure of their character as True Gamers.

For example, remember the early Kickstarter Revolution from last year, as the biggest games after Double Fine ended up being sequels and spriritual successors to classics. Remeber the gamer community's self-flagellation about how we were supposed to expect that it was only the Big Publishers that forced tradition and "safe bets" on us, and breaking our shackles would lead to unlimited innovation forever. Remember the outcries, about how much we suck for being attracted to established genres (like "old-school RPGs"), or to basic styles and themes (like "High Fantsy", or "Zombie Apocalypse").

I can't believe I watched so much filler.
All you had to say is innovation can be good but doing it for the sake of it is likely going to fail. Done.

It's that saying; 'Success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well' whereas doing something (relatively) complicated (innovation) and messing it up is a fail.

I really don't think people give games a free pass if they are innovative; They may add 1-2 point out of 10 to their scores for a boring innovative piece of rubbish but that's about it. Maybe people who like a very different game will accuse others of not buying it because they 'don't appreciate innovation' but that's just people rationalising their fanboyism.

The irony with one or two of your examples is the innovative aspects of those games were fun...it was the parts that were common that drew the biggest criticism.

Mirrors Edge..platforming is fun. People shooting you was a bit off.
La Noire- investigations-good innovation, 3rd person shooting-common jarring rubbish

Imagine portal had some 3rd person shooting sections and QTE's thrown in.

Innovation does not have to be the entire game. The first 3D prince of persia for example; one innovation was running on walls. Platforming isn't innovative in of itself but adding wall running is.

Here's another vid. It's not strictly about innovation, but it touches on the subject far better then Jimquistion

Jimothy Sterling:

alphamalet:
Jim,

I don't think many people are on the other side of this issue.

Innovation for the sake of it is bad. It will usually lead to something frivolous that is not properly implemented within the system it exists.
Doing the same thing over and over is bad.
Finding a good balance between the two to keep something fresh yet familiar is usually good.

If people praised innovation for the sake of it, like you postulate in this video, then gamers everywhere would have praised the Wii for its "innovative" controls. That obviously didn't happen.

This sort of seemed like a non-issue to make a video out of.

Considering the pundits and devs I named in the video, not to mention the notes I've already received from watchers disagreeing with this episode, I don't believe the video's as worthless as implied, m'good chap!

I still find it kinda sad it needed to be made at all, but given the current state of things :/ I get why.

Jim isn't mad at innovation, he's mad at Developers that "innovate" for the worse,
if a game changes and its a good thing than great!
But the "innovation" in mirrors edge just made things worse
and the people that claimed not buying mirror's edge "held back the industry"
are spewing BS

Edit: I don't mean to bash Mirrors edge since I never played it, but I really don't like the new movement system, if you enjoy it thats fine but the problem was the people that got mad that mirror's edge didn't sell better
they claimed it deserved amazing sales just because it's movement system was "different"
Remember people just because you love/hate something doesn't mean everyone ever will agree with you

Daystar Clarion:
This is why I couldn't stand Spec Ops the Line.

I don't care how 'good' the story 'is' if I have to trudge through mediocre shooting gallery after shooting gallery with crappy controls.

yet somehow, this bad gameplay is 'subversive' and 'adds' to the experience.

No, it doesn't, it's just fucking boring.

See, I guess thats where some people diverge.

I admit the gameplay in that was average or even below average but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I know it makes me sounds like one of "those guys" but it was something that was drastically needed in the shooter genre.

If one of those games came out to every seven CoD clones I wouldn't complain about its gameplay, I'd just be happy its out there. But maybe thats the wrong attitude to have, idk

Good vid jim, but you missed this one:

Agreed 100%. I'm sick of developers changing things that were perfectly fine just to be different or when some crappy new game comes out and everyone suggests you play it and support the developer because they did something different. No. I refuse. If they did something different and made a good game, then I'll buy it because they made a good game, not because it's different. If they did something different and it sucked, then I'm not going to support it because it sucks. Like that article mentioned at the start of the video where the guy wanted everyone to buy Mirror's Edge. Not a chance, I tried the demo and as expected, first person platforming still didn't work and the game fuuuuuuuuuuucking sucked! And I will not overlook that and buy it anyway just because it was different (especially when it was being so stupidly different; there's a reason platformers are almost always 2D side scrollers or 3D third person views, and that's so you can see where your character is in relationship to the world around him. going first person takes that away and makes platforming nigh impossible, how the fuck could they not know that before wasting money developing that POS?!).

And also yes, this video does lead back to the "Touch Waggle Touch Waggle Swipe" episode nicely because that's another "innovation" I'm damn well sick of being used incorrectly. Stop making your games shitty with "innovative" controls. Either make a new game that works properly with the new controls, or just use the old controls we've had since Sony released the Dualshock controller for the PS1. A bunch of buttons and two analog sticks, that's what you use. And of course the Vita remains the perfect example of this. Escape Plan works because it was built around using the touch screen, and Retro City Rampage works because they said "this is a buttons and analog stick kind of game, so let's just use them and not fuck anything up with any of the other input methods the Vita has". The developers of Gravity Rush, Assassin's Creed 3 Liberation, LittleBigPlanet Vita, and Uncharted Golden Abyss can all form a line behind me and kiss my ass for all the various ways they each broke their games to fit in stupid touch screen, motion controlled, and "hold the camera up to a lightbulb lololol!" bullshit that wasn't fun and rarely worked properly.

Also, I would much rather play New Super Mario Bros 2 than Super Mario 3D Land because despite 3D Land trying something different, it was full of crappy camera angles, had bad controls (why the hell are A and B both jump when A has been jump and B has been run for years and years and years of Mario games?!), and forced you to play the same boring levels through four fucking times just to unlock the final stage. New Super Mario Bros 2 might have been more of the same 2D Mario we've been playing for quite some time, but it was fun goddammit!

...Yeah, can you tell that I just want games that are fun to play? I don't care if they innovate or not: a fun game is one I'll talk up and a bad one is one I'll talk shit about, regardless of how little or how much innovation there is.

alphamalet:
Doing the same thing over and over is bad.

This couldn't possibly be more wrong. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And if you don't like the way it is now, just go play something else rather than whine that it needs to innovate for you and fuck everyone who likes it the way it currently is.

Innovation is a buzzword the industry tends to get caught up in too much even though it can lead to some great gaming experiences if done right.

I just hate the inflexible side of it that had everyone ignoring 2D games 15 years back because it was old tech.

While not gaming A good example would be Microsoft, who are always fucking about with the desktop and folder location of every new OS, like a supermarket moving it's food products around every month.

Companies are innovating themselves right into a hole. Spending millions and millions on sharper graphics or rebuilding engines and the game comes out empty. Sure it may look amazing and handle different but it also tends to be full of glitches (untested engine), terrible texture pop in, and frame rate issues. Mean while, Chrono Trigger still looks better, plays better, and is more fun than a lot of modern games.

Jimothy Sterling:

alphamalet:
Jim,

I don't think many people are on the other side of this issue.

Innovation for the sake of it is bad. It will usually lead to something frivolous that is not properly implemented within the system it exists.
Doing the same thing over and over is bad.
Finding a good balance between the two to keep something fresh yet familiar is usually good.

If people praised innovation for the sake of it, like you postulate in this video, then gamers everywhere would have praised the Wii for its "innovative" controls. That obviously didn't happen.

This sort of seemed like a non-issue to make a video out of.

Considering the pundits and devs I named in the video, not to mention the notes I've already received from watchers disagreeing with this episode, I don't believe the video's as worthless as implied, m'good chap!

I'm honestly shocked you didn't mention the Kinect even once (though you seemed to imply it pretty hard)! That to me seems like the very definition of innovation for its own sake and is the PERFECT example to throw back in the face of people who hold up innovation as the mythical panacea.

Funny. I said the exact same thing back in 2011.

Thanks Jim, you're 1 years late, but the support is appreciated!! :-)

... Considering what TF2 has become, that was almost a passable Pyro cosplay.

... and I just wasted 7.5 minutes of my time to listen to a man who doesn't know what he's talking about. Can I get a job here; I'm good at that.

The definition of "innovation" is making changes, and that is not a bad thing. Making bad games is a bad thing. When you were talking about NNK not being "innovative" yet still being excellent because it "JRPGs harder than any JRPG has ever JRPGed". That's motherfucking innovation. The Path? That's experimentation, because it devolves itself to better portray what it's getting across: symbolism and themes about growing up. Also Darksiders, that game was innovative as hell. It didn't innovate or mess with the dungeon structure or puzzles it ripped from LoZ; it "innovated" on the only aspect that really needed innovation in a Zelda game: the combat.

You know alot times when a gave is innovative and I find it sucks i've often considered "maybe i just blow at this game?"

I like new ideas, but hay you completely said a bunch of things that sound way appealing than "you suck magog."

So as always great job jim (LOL).

Beryl77:

Bocaj2000:

He's not bashing innovation; he's bashing innovation for innovation's sake. Innovation should be a means to an end and NOT the end itself.

The video might be flawed, but the core idea remains the same.

Yes, I realise that. However, I still don't agree with it.

Fair enough. For a second there, I thought that you misunderstood.

Personally, I don't even see this as an issue. I love Lost Odyssey as well as Mirror's Edge. The industry is still young innovation is rampent in the game industry. This is a good thing for obvious reasons. What Jim refers to is innovation through gameplay exclusively. Personally, I usually don't care about gameplay; bad gameplay is easily excused with good story. What needs innovation is how we tell stories through an interactive medium. We're getting better at this, but too many times I find myself asking, "Why am I fighting these people/monsters right now?"

Jimothy Sterling:
Innovation - Gaming's Snake Oil

There's nothing wrong with a game that innovates. There's everything wrong with a game that goes out of its way to innovate without reason.

Watch Video

You make many valid points but use some horrible examples. I loved Mirrors Edge and despite really enjoying Lost Odyssey's opening and trying to play through it twice, that game bored me to tears about halfway through.

To be honest however I prefer a market that's willing to take risks on new things to one that's bland and unwilling to break the mold. Yeah, there will be gimmicks out there but The community as a whole is pretty savvy about that. The UDraws and Virtual Boys of the world will get what they deserve, let's just do what we can to get the hell away from the Call of Duties and Maddens.

Ya gotta feel kind of sorry for Final Fantasy. Square announced at the PS4 event that they were working on a new Final Fantasy title... and I couldn't have cared less. Seriously, it wasn't even a blip on my radar. It was like hearing that there is a new Call of Duty being worked on, except people will actually buy that game, for whatever reason. Lost Odyssey was amazing, which was what made the Last Story such a bitter pill to swallow. Sometimes, change isn't needed. There's a difference between taking a game in a new direction and making the mechanics as weird as possible in order to say that they're 'new.'

This is actually something that bugs me about RPGs in particular - they get rid of the 'level up' system and call whatever they stick in it's place 'innovation.' They blend action and turn-based combat together and call it innovation. Seriously, they don't have to make me feel like I'm playing a game I've never played before - just give me something with an excellent story, decent graphics, and fun mechanics, 'cause I gotta say, that's a game I haven't played in a long while.

But seriously, RPGs need to stop trying to get rid of the level up system.

Love you, Jim. Very good point that a lot of developers don't seem to understand. Thank god for you

debigcheez:
It feels like Jim is bashing innovation itself in this one.

Maybe he's sick of all the art-sy fart-sy games but i do believe that innovation is a good thing when combined with brilliant gameplay mechanics, that's what innovation is for after all.

His point isn't that innovation is a bad thing, he isn't criticizing it at all. He is criticizing people who fall back on the concept of innovation as something that is inherently good and give it higher value than the actual quality of a game. Innovation is not automatically a good thing in a game and games should not be criticized purely for not innovating.

while I agree with everything said here in theory, I think it needs to be said that just because a game is maid for innovations sake, that does not mean it will automatically be bad. this is a trap that many speakers fall into. games that were made for the sake of innovation in the past have been bad, therefor all games made for the sake of innovation will be bad. it's a simple point of clarity that is just missed, just because a game does something that is historically a bad idea, does not mean that it will always produce a bad product. that is to deny exceptions and claim absolute knowledge, which everyone who's been defending mirror's edge here will argue against.

on a more petty note. Singularity as best shooter of our generation is one of the generation. What a statement. I got excited and played that game and hated it from start to finish. I ran headfirst into invisible walls. I saw the vague plot hole covered plot coming a mile away. The gimmick device was crippled and implemented in bizarre ways. maybe getting 2 uses from checkpoint to checkpoint in actual player controlled combat gameplay. Heck I even hated the level design when it decided to be the next game to think suicidal enemies in tight corridors wasn't already tedious and frustrating done in other games. Still, a conflict of opinions here, just thought I would get it out of my system.

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